Oakland's Haven Has a New Chef, But It's as Delicious as Ever

Since opening at the end of 2011, Oakland’s Haven, in Jack London Square, has cycled through several executive chefs. Charlie Parker is the latest to move on, to San Francisco’s Alfred’s Steakhouse — which was recently sold to the Daniel Patterson Group (DPG) — and executive chef Matt Brimer has come on board.

Haven — also owned by the DPG — has had a family-style menu since its inception, under executive chef Kim Alter. But when Parker came on board, he introduced a “breaking bread” starter course, giving the restaurant a chance to show its charcuterie chops by offering several kinds of housemade breads, crackers, vegetable spreads, and cheeses. As the dessert and side dishes were fixed, the diner was left with only one choice to make: a vegetarian or meat entrée.

[jump] While this may not be the ideal concept for picky eaters or those with lots of food sensitivities, under Brimer — who has worked in the kitchens at Coco 500, Maverick, and most recently, at Ame, in the St. Regis — it isn’t changing. We're very glad about that, seeing as we were big fans of the breaking bread spread the first time we tried it earlier this year, and were more than happy to sample it again on a recent visit.

What it included: burrata with fennel confit and capers, smoked trout rillettes with horseradish créme fraiche, chicken liver mousse with huckleberry and chicken crackling, pâté campagne with dijon mustard, charred scallion hummus with radish and house pickles, Monterey squid with Calabrian pepper and tapenade; Oregon Dungeness crab fritters with Meyer lemon-mango aioli. With such a feast arriving before you have a chance to finish your deftly crafted cocktail, the entrée almost becomes superfluous, but before that we still had to sample a gorgeous hamachi crudo.

With such variety, one can really get a sense of what a chef can do. (Among the highlights were that positively airy chicken liver mousse, the burrata, the squid, and the trout). And jars of the housemade pickles and bags of pasta are also for sale, so you can bring some of Haven’s goodness home.

Our entrees, a Wagyu beef and halibut, came with a dish of chard and farro, accented by golden raisins to share, and dessert included smoked white chocolate. The menu costs $65 on weekends for four courses, and $49 on weeknights for three courses, which, combined with the excellent service and sheer quantity of food you get, could be characterized as a fine-dining deal, if there is such a thing. There’s a supplement for wine pairings (need we say we recommend this?) and on the night we visited, there were also two foie gras offerings (torchon and seared) for a little extra. With this much food, such additions are gilding the lily, but sometimes such gilding is warranted.

Note: the lounge and bar area has a completely different menu, too. While it's mostly charcuterie, there are also a number of bar snacks, pastas and a burger, too.

Haven, 44 Webster, Oakland, 510-663-4440.

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